Tom Pittman's WebLog

Earlier this year
 

2021 September 22 -- Montessori Downside

A very wise guru once advised:
Instruct a child at the beginning of his path, and when he is old he will not turn away from it. -- Pr.22:6 (my Tr.)
Other people, perhaps supposing that people are intirinsically Good and need only the opportunity to become who they are, or perhaps having bought the Darwinist lie that the accumulation of undirected random events can and did result in every kind of system complexity, they suppose likewise, and those other people of both persuasions might prefer an unstructured education system -- or at least one that appears unstructured, even if actually it is not -- such as that invented by Maria Montessori perhaps 120 years ago. The director of the summer program I was involved in the last five years, and which has now morphed into a remote high school class presumed to teach computer programming -- let's call him "Ed" -- he seems to be in that category (both premises), and he sent his kids to Montessori school and liked what they got. So of course he is more than eager to import Montessori ideas into this high-school program.

I explained my model of Christians in the workplace in my blog a couple decades ago (see "Salt in the Future"), and Ed is the one paying the proverbial piper, so he gets to call the tune. Public information suggests that there are maybe 20 Montessori high schools in the USA, compared to some 500 grade schools. Part of that is that Maria's own philosophy seems to disparage secondary education. Ed sent his kids to private high school (and again seems to approve what they got).

In any case, a very large part of computer science is learning to conform to the rigid rules of the computer architecture, and on one end, to the rigid physics of semiconductor electronics, and the other end, to the rigid syntax of programming languages, and somewhere in and around and through that is the arcane mathematics of computability. I went back to grad school because my self-directed seat-of-the-pants learning was inadequate. Ed is a hardware guy, not a computer scientist, so he doesn't understand that. He did watch his son self-teach programming, and liked what he saw (but the kid doesn't know what he doesn't know... well, he's in college now, perhaps a little wiser). Whatever.

Anyway, the religious ferver expressed in the Montessori community, combined with its very minority status in the American school system (something like 2% of private schools, 0.5% if you include public education) suggests that there must be a lot of educators thinking that Montessori is wrong. Google won't tell you. Small wonder, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two founders of Google, both went to Montessori schools. It was several years ago that Google dropped their corporate motto "Don't be evil," and fiddling with search results can be -- and evidently is -- part of the change. After several failed search attempts that turned up only praise, I did find one former Montessori teacher who told why she was not sending her son there. I also found several defensive pieces (but not the arguments they were defending against).

Many years ago, I heard of an activist who argued that the fences around a school play yard "inhibited" the students, so they took the fences out, and instead of playing all over the yard as before, the kids mostly huddled in the center, far away from where the former fences were. Solomon was right: Kids need structure. People need structure, and if you withhold it, Bad Things Happen. I think Ed is learning that, even without me pressing it.
 

2021 September 7 -- Hershel Shanks 1930-2021

The founder and long-time editor of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) died earlier this year. A couple years before that he passed the editorial torch to Robert Cargill who apparently didn't really want the job, but stayed on out of respect to the aging Hershel, but then immediately went back to his academic career, leaving the reins to staff member Glenn Corbett, whose first issue I recently finished reading. Neither of them could attain to the heroic stature of Hershel -- many of the eulogies in their obituary mentioned Hershel's famous "red pen," which neither of his successors have the might to wield. It shows.

Shanks may have been a fabulous editor and an awesome prospector for quality material to publish, but like many Biblical (and subsequent) fathers, and institutional founders of our time, he was not very good at training up a successor in his values. Perhaps it cannot be done: "Values," we are told in other venues, "are caught, not taught."

The "Summer" issue of BAR this year, the longest piece at 12 pages is the obituary, followed by the final piece in a 7-year series on some 53 "real" [author's emphasis] Biblical persons confirmed in secular evidence, this now ten pages on "New Testament Religious Figures Confirmed." I read those previous articles and thought them fascinating. I do not recall being dissed by them -- perhaps I was sloppy in my reading, but I doubt it -- but this issue provoked me to compose a response:

I think it ironic that author Lawrence Mykytiuk dissed the provenance of the Jacobean ossuary which microscopic and chemical analysis has unquestionably shown to be authentic, while giving full credence to Josephus who has no provenance at all: he wasn't even born at the time of the events Mykytiuk cites, and the earliest fragmentary copies of copies of copies we have of the Josephus writings are hundreds of years later than full-text copies of the eyewitness Biblical accounts Mykytiuk similarly disrespects.


It's always a good idea to hold off sending off critiques like this to give oneself time to reconsider, and in this case -- especially after reading some of the filler pieces they filled the remaining pages of this issue -- I see that it would have been futile.

Very few magazines (BAR among them) regularly print a few negative letters, but never anything that actually criticizes editorial policy, unless it makes the letter writer look foolish. Hershel Shanks had an awesome perception of his readers tastes, and he printed what we want to read: Stories about archaeology in the lands mentioned in the Bible, where the findings fit (often against the author's evident preference) the historical record we find in Scripture. Hershel himself was Jewish, and occasionally he strayed off into the pseudo-scholarly opinions about the alleged lack of Biblical accuracy, which he originally tried to publish as a separate magazine Bible Review, but it folded from lack of readers. Hershel then dragged the material into a monthly one-page column in BAR, which his readers could easily skip over in our enjoyment of the title topic, Biblical Archaeology,that is, Archaeology related to the Bible,nothing more nor less. Neither Cargill nor Corbett understand that. They seem to think that the two words are separable, so the magazine is filled with (anti-Biblical) stuff about the Bible, and with archaeology all over the middle east and the rest of the world. That may be academically interesting but it does not have the compelling draw of the historical facts of our faith.

The people doing archaeology professionally, the academics digging in the ground and publishing partly nonsense about what they found, they are two kinds: Christians who want to find credible support for what they believe (they teach at Christian seminaries and universities), and people who just like digging up ancient artifacts -- think Indiana Jones -- but all the grant money comes from the first category of Christians, so they must do Biblical archaeology or none. There is some grant money for digging up American Indian ruins and stuff in China, but not much. Those places are not about where Jesus lived and taught, and Jesus gave the largest religion in the world a reason to be Good and to donate money to charitable stuff like archaeology. The atheists and crypto-atheists don't get it, but they don't mind taking your money.

Recent BAR issues have printed numerous letters praising the editorial changes. Duh. Editors never print critical letters (except when the writer can be made to look foolish). The real test of who the readers of any magazine are is to look at whom the paid ads target. 90% or more of a magazinee budget is ad revenue, and advertizers want to see a profit from the high cost of those ads (or they go away), so the ad department of every magazine works hard to identify their readers so that the advertizers can target actual potential buyers. So who are they? The most expensive back cover on the Summer issue: ChristianBook.com. Only committed (conservative) Christians buy Christian books, everybody else thinks the whole idea is foolish. Inside back cover: Discover Bible Lands ("Biblical Jordan," "In Paul's Footsteps," Biblical this, Biblical that) they are selling tours to people who read the Bible and care about it enough to spend thousands of dollars to see where Jesus and Paul walked. Those are not nice places to visit, I know, I've been there. Near the middle (lower priced page placement) is usually somebody marketing low-cost jewelry with a faint Christian hint, here a "Helenite" (faux emerald, named for the volcano that Creationists frequently mention) necklace for $130, including "free" earrings. Conservative Christians are notoriously stingy, but guys are told in church to "love their wives." Nobody teaches them to treat their women right, they just need to buy them (not very expensive) baubles. This is aimed right at them.

It will take a few years before the Christians realize they've been had, so Corbett can honestly claim (this year) that circulation has not decreased. I would guess that BAR will shutter its doors about a decade away, give or take a few years. Maybe I'll hang on and watch it happen. Or not.

It was a fine mag under Hershel Shanks. Oh well.
 

2021 September 3 -- "Consciuousness Will Simply Emerge"

The 5-page (six, counting the graphic title page) item in the current WIRED started off reading like an actual experience, interrupted by some philosophizing on a somewhat enhanced description of Rodney Brooks' robots at MIT -- it doesn't take very much Google research to learn that the public image of those robots is considerably more anthropomorphic than the actual hardware and software would support -- but the fatal proof that the whole story is fiction came on the last page, where
A friend ... once caught [the robots] all congregated in a circle in the middle of the campus mall. "They were having some kind of symposium," he said. They communicated dangers to one another and remotely passed along information to help adapt to new challenges in the environment.
Meghan O'Gieblyn's understanding of Neural Nets (NNs, to which she attributes the robot programming) is no better than other fictional writers' understanding of the Darwinist hypothesis, in both cases supposing that the uniquely human qualities -- in her case the ability to quickly learn complex behaviors and then transmit that knowledge to other people -- can "evolve" during the short span of a few years research. Both the Darwinist hypothesis and the intelligence of NNs have in fact been disproved [see "Darwin Didn't Help" a couple years ago, and my review of Melanie Mitchell's book earlier this year] but females attempting to break into a male-dominated culture (like anything computational) tend to be more credulous of nonsense than their male counterparts: robots that can communicate remotely and lack human facial expressions whereby to discredit anthropomorphic dissimulation have no need to "congregate in a circle" for any "kind of symposium," they could do all that on the fly, as they go about their assigned duties. It's fiction.

The MIT robots that Rodney Brooks (mostly his students) worked on predated the ability of NNs to do anything at all like that; their behavior was explicitly programmed using inferential logic. Rodney Brooks' research hit a dead end: I think I saw somewhere that his students mostly went off in other directions after graduating; he certainly did. Researchers are only recently looking at ways to merge the detailed learning ability of NNs with the speed and complexity of inferential logic (and none of them dare admit it yet). Honest people in the field (like Melanie Mitchell) see any possible success as decades away, but don't expect robots to hesitate at a busy intersection and then (as in this fiction) respond to shouted encouragements from the students to dart across, not in your lifetime.

Even if the Darwinist hypothesis were true, and even if we managed to "evolve" artificial neurons that work like the real McCoy -- hey, we can't even make them by design, and at the rate our designs are improving, we still have several thousand years to go -- we'd need hundreds, perhaps thousands of years more for them to "evolve" into something smart enough to fake human consciousness. Rodney Brooks' work a quarter century ago probably had a better chance of success than modern NN efforts. But nobody believes that, so self-aware robots (like in this fictional article) are still far beyond our lifetime, except in wishful Religious fiction (Religion being defined as "believing what you know ain't so) such as printed in WIRED this month.
 

2021 August 25 -- Lessons from a DragonFly

The current issue of the IEEE house organ Spectrum features a cover story about a research project purporting to study the dragonfly brain by constructing a neural net (NN) that behaves the same. Reading between the lines, it seems that the author doing this is not a first-tier scientist, but rather an academic who (like everybody else in her business) thinks the standard "deep" NN is a good model of how "evolution" created the human brain, and like very good hammer, she's looking for nails to hit.

Author Frances Chance is not personally involved in the study of dragonflies, she just read about them, the work of other scientists who do the entomological neuro-surgery. She saw the timing and decided that the 50ms time delay for a dragonfly chasing a mosquito, from when the prey changes course until the predator changes course to follow, leaves only time for three layers of NN inside the dragonfly brain.

You can tell she is not a deep thinker: in the second sentence of her lead paragraph she refers to "abilities honed by millions of years of evolution" in lesser animals like her dragonflies, then a couple pages later,

While these [NN] weights could be learned with enough time, there is an advantage to "learning" through evolution and preprogrammed neural network architectures. Once it comes out of its nymph stage as a winged adult, the dragonfly does not have a parent to feed it or show it how to hunt. The dragonfly is in a vulnerable state and getting used to a new body -- it would be disadvantageous to have to figure out a hunting strategy at the same time.
Did you catch that? The dragonfly must start eating in far less time than it would take a standard NN to learn the weights that would enable it to begin catching prey. But -- Religion (believing what you know ain't so) to the rescue! -- what cannot be done in a few minutes can certainly be done in billions of those same incapable minutes ("millions of years" mulitplied times a half-million minutes in each year). The original "evolved" dragonfly, whose NN brain has not yet been programmed to catch mosquitos, must learn that in those deadly first few minutes, or die, as Chance herself admits. How many mosquitos were accidentally caught and eaten during the dozens or hundreds of trials before that dragonfly learned enough to catch them by design? Read the rest of the article, and you know that the answer is none, the poor first dragonfly died of starvation, leaving no offspring, because NNs require thousands of training trials (not dozens or hundreds) to get as good as Chance's pre-programmed weights (which she admits are not as good as a real dragonfly).

The evidence is clear from the Spectrum article itself: the real dragonflies are every bit as pre-programmed as Frances Chance's software model, which she gives no hint that she even attempted to train using the standard tensor method -- either she tried and failed, or else she was smart enough to not try, either case a negative result that sees no publication ink. And since there is no way for the original "evolved" dragonflies to accumulate enough standard NN training in a short enough time to catch and eat even one mosquito, let alone enough to mate and produce offspring to carry on the mutated novel gene(s) providing for that pre-programming, the dragonflies could not have evolved their pre-programming any more than her Spectrum article could have evolved from randomly splattered ink on randomly solidified tree fibers. So her references to "evolution" are Religion, nothing more.
 

2021 August 24 -- Chinese Junk Considered Harmful

Some time in the recent past, one of the technical rags I read profiled an exec in the Chinese electronics firm Huawei (they said it's pronounced more or less like "who are we" probably with a New England accent) which seems to have gone all out to snap up the technology for the so-called "5G" (fifth generation) of wireless connectivity. Apparently I did not blog it. Four years ago (I read and blogged it last year) one of the engineers involved in that effort was bragging about what he thought the higher data rate would do for ordinary people, but mostly he was blowing smoke.

This month ComputingEdge reprinted an article originally published two years ago in Security&Privacy lambasting Huawei programmers for "several million calls into unsafe functions" and "76 instances of firmware where the device was... providing for default backdoor access" and other such intentional security violations for piercing the encryption of customer 5G traffic. They hinted at the plausible deniability of racing to "markets whose structure inherently confers near-insurmountable first-mover advantages," but these kinds of flaws are not the accident of haste, some of them take extra time to implement and cannot be reasonably understood as other than intentional espionage on future customers.

Last week I bought an electric lawn mower off the street. I'd never heard of the brand Ryobi but the guy was selling it for less than half list price (more like 60% a local discounter price) and it appeared nearly new and it seemed to run OK, and I needed something to cut my newly refurbished front lawn. Later I Googled the brand for a user manual and found several sites selling them, but nothing on the maker's own site. More poking around turned up gripe sites where people complained that their new or 1-year-old mower wouldn't start. Maybe I would have been less eager to buy it if I'd seen these gripes or that it was "Made in China." So yesterday I wheeled it out of the garage to use it the first time, and after some clattering, a power transistor fell onto the floor from somewhere under the mower. I could not see any place it could have fallen from, but the mower refused to start. Castigating myself for being such a sucker, I pulled the battery and fuse-key back out -- and noticed that I had actually installed the battery in its spare storage slot, not the running slot. Once corrected, the mower started right up and did a credible job of mowing the lawn, only discharging the battery halfway (if the battery status lights are to be believed). I guess the fallen transistor was already on the floor from some other source. Nonetheless, I have a Chinese product from a company with a public reputation common to other Chinese products I have experienced -- and now read about -- failure modes more credibly explained as intentional than accidental or "normal wear and tear." It remains to be seen if this will be an exception.

I think the threat we have seen in Huawei's back-door espionage adds to the urgency that this country start weaning ourselves off Chinese dependency before we discover that the recent WIRED novel spoiler "The Next World War" (see my review earlier this year) is more fact than fiction. This is far more dangerous to future American safety than depending on the Arabs for oil or the greenies for climate. This is "5G" and you do not want to be using 5G for anything of national (nor personal) security, unless and until Huawei is out of the picture.
 

2021 August 16 -- It's Not About Love

Two years ago I thought the pastor of the church I attended to be "the best in the city." I was Wrong, and so badly so that God needed to make it painfully obvious. I now do not believe there is any such person, at least not here. The senior pastor at my new church home is much more Biblical in his sermons (he preaches through the whole Bible, alternating New and Old Testament books for balance). He was in Romans when I started, then did the book of Leviticus, and quite well; now he's in Philippians. If I understood him correctly, he did Genesis and a Gospel and probably also Exodus before I started. Perhaps by the time he retires he will have finished the whole Bible. He's not as detailed as Criswell's "Through the Bible" was.

He is less Biblical in handling diversity in his church, but pretty much everybody -- especially those who use the word "diversity" to describe their policies -- expects everybody else to be a mirror of themselves and therefore cannot cope with people who are truly different. I was that way too when I was younger, but I am sooo different from everybody I know, I could not sustain that opinion. I am also a regular disproof of anybody's self-image of "tolerant". So I'm trying to maintain a lower profile in this church than in the previous. But I'm hard to miss.

This church has I think four campuses around the county (another starting up next month), and while the senior pastor mostly preaches at the home church, once every sermon series he rotates around all the campuses with all the campus pastors. His son is one of them, and he did his text quite well: brought in other relevant Scriptures like his father, and only came short in not citing them in the notes handout like his father -- I notice these things because before each service I prepare all the references with bookmarks, so I can read along in the Greek or Hebrew, but I'm not often fast enough finding them to get there on the fly before he finishes reading.

All pastors are Relationshipists (it's what they have been taught in Sunday School and Seminary alike, all their life) but the senior pastor here, like the guy at the previous church, is among the few who preach the text. I knew a couple pastors who apologized a lot when they came to a text that is contrary to Relationshipism, but the senior pastor here mostly doesn't even hint that he believes otherwise. But he was not here to preach the third chapter in Philippians yesterday.

The guy who did preach used the word "Relationship" a lot and once even the anti-Biblical phrase "Relationship, not religion." Verse 10 was central to his sermon, and he wanted to interpret the phrase "to know Christ" which starts that verse as referring to "relationship." It's not entirely his fault: Even the rather free translation they use here for the sermon texts just used the stark literalistic word substitution of the Greek words, instead of factoring in the context to better fit the Jewish thinking of the Apostle. Hebrew poetry consists (usually) of doublets, a statement, followed by the same statement using other words. Paul does that a lot in his Epistles. Here it's not two, but four variations on (and therefore explanations of) the first line. A better translation would have structured it like this:

10. I want to know Christ, which means:
  (a) I want to know the power of his resurrection,
  (b) which includes sharing in (experiencing) his sufferings,
  (c) and becoming like him in his death,
11. So that I can attain to the resurrection from the dead.
There is nothing here of the modern notion of "relationship," which is usually understood to mean "mutual affirmation," nor even the dictionary definition of the same word (connectivity). The dictionary definition of "relationship" does occur later in the same chapter, the "in Christ" in verse 14 and also elsewhere in the book, but most translators do not use the word there either, because they too are Relationshipists, and they know that using the word "relationship" there would be misunderstood by the Christians who read it. Verse 10 is about doing what Jesus did and experiencing what Jesus experienced. The Relationshipists are deathly afraid of saying anything like that, lest it be misunderstood as "earning your salvation," which this has nothing to do with.

The song leader was so proud of her song selection: she found two songs inspired by Php.3:10, which she wrapped the sermon (one before, the other after), but both songs got the sense entirely Wrong, both used the word "love" in what was otherwise a direct quote of (part of) that verse. The word "love" does not occur in the whole chapter, it's not what Paul was talking about.

The Biblical word 'agape' usually incorrectly translated by the English word "love" as if it were about the warm fuzzies you get when you think about the person you "love" -- I think a better translation would be "Do the Right Thing" -- occurs twice in each chapter of this short Epistle, except chapter 3. Only once is it arguably about God's love, and then only by inference from the (Hebrew) poetical form of the verse it is in: The first verse of the second chapter lists four things in parallel as preconditions for congregational unity:

If there is any consolation in Christ,
if any comfort of love (doing the Right Thing),
if any fellowship of spirit,
if any guts (emotions) and feelings,
If you ignore the first line, the rest of these make more sense as "relationship" (dictionary definition) between the church members, which also makes more sense of what Paul goes on to encourage them to do. I believe the translators (at least of oNIV) did the right thing in linking the first three lines together as (one each) about the Trinity God. They could equally have linked the last three together to lead into the following verses.

Other than that, the word occurs twice in 4:1 referring to Paul's love for the church members, once in 1:16 referring to the attitude of some preachers (contrasted with others who preach out of hostility), and twice referring to the readers of his Epistle, once in 1:9 expressing his appreciation for their Doing the Right Thing in sending a gift, and a second time in 2:2 where he encourages them to do more of the same (to each other).

Most of Paul's Epistles refer to his readers as "loved by God," but Philippians is not one of them. You'd think it would be, because it's a thank-you letter in response to their financial gift. That's what we moderns do: gush all over our benefactors with affirmations. But the Apostle Paul is not a Relationshipist. He gives them factual data about what is happening inside the Roman jail where he is prisoner, and he encourages them to do more and better things for God. Plus some greetings.

End of Epistle. It's Not About Love
 

2021 August 13 -- Pascal's Wager

As far as I know, nobody knows about Pascal's Wager except the evangelistic Christians, and probably not many of them. Nobody reads anything that old, we are all from Athens, consistent with what the ancient historian said, "All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas." Christians are not exempt, except for a few who are serious enough about their faith to learn how to defend it. They alone know about Pascal's Wager, offered in his Pensees by theologian Blaise Pascal somewhere around 1657, where he suggests that betting on God is a much better wager than betting against Him. Last month's ComputingEdge cites Pascal and offers the same argument for betting against AI. The authors are careful to say nothing that would betray them as Christians -- except of course mentioning Pascal at all, and betting against AI when all the atheists think it's the best thing since fried ice cream. The atheists are Wrong (of course) but you already knew that from me ;-)
 

2021 August 4 -- Blunder

I save on heating cost by closing off the one or two rooms I spend any time in, then heating the reduced space with local electric heat. For the amount of heat I get, electricity costs three times the same heat using the furnace, but the furnace heats the whole house, and the electric heats only 12% of that, so I come out ahead by a factor of at least 2x. Maybe less because of leakage between rooms. If I thought atmospheric carbon caused "climate change" (it used to be "global warming" until the scientists noticed it wasn't happening according to their predictions), and if I considered such "climate change" to be both catastrophic and preventable -- none of which I have any good reason to give credence to, certainly no more than the politicians who add it to their platform but act like they believe it's only a political football -- I could also pat myself on the back for reducing carbon emissions, because much (perhaps most) of the electricity out here on the west coast is hydro, which nominally adds no carbon, certainly not like burning natural gas. That's in winter.

Today it's summer, and I save electricity by opening the windows and blowing outside air through the house whenever it's cooler outside than I consider the limit of my tolerance. According to the thermometer outside the window, that time starts now, about two hours before Weather.com predicted it. The weather people serve up their predictions based on the best scientific -- ah, I mean Politically Correct -- data available, and where science would predict that atmospheric carbon (and associated smoke particles from burning trees in the forest) add albedo to the air, which reflects the sun more than other factors would lead you to believe, the PC version is that the extra heat from those forest fires should make it hot far into the night. They are Wrong.

I think looming catastrophe must confer a feeling of power on the fear-mongers, because a half-century ago the fear-mongers (in the same political party, perhaps it's an unwritten plank in their party platform) were predicting global catastrophe from nuclear holocaust. It didn't happen, but it was a President in the other party who defused it, far from disarmament, he ramped up the stakes until the other team completely collapsed. I expect  "climate change" to disappear the same way.

One of the movies I downloaded from Archive.org was #2 in a TV series.  I Googled the rest of the series, but only this one episode was uploaded, I suspect because it was a screed against nuclear holocaust. It ended with the announcer declaring (with his fingers crossed, the common talisman to protect against Divine Wrath when lying) that nobody is mad enough to do what the greedy villain in the movie did.

Back in the 40s, when the War Department was funding research to create a nuclear bomb to end the War quickly with minimal loss of life, the nay-sayers were fearful that it might trigger an atmospheric chain reaction that would consume the whole earth. The same line was used in this flick, and (being fiction, where you can do things that are contrary to fact) it happened. The science is a bit more subtle. If the elements in the earth's air could generate (by fission or fusion, it doesn't matter) enough energy to sustain a chain reaction, and if the earth's atmosphere is actually hundreds of millions of years old, then the chain reaction would have already happened, because entropy pushes things toward less available energy. The fact is, the oxygen and nitrogen and carbon in the atmosphere are stable elements at the bottom of an energy well: so far from getting energy out in a reaction, you must add it. Uranium and deuterium occur in nature, but not in the concentrations necessary to explode. Otherwise, in the "millions of years" of earth history, a random cosmic ray would have set it off. Of course, if the earth is only 6000 years old, the chance of that happening in that short time is substantially reduced -- but also that scenario is only possible with a Creator God Who did it, and He can prevent such stupidity (until His appointed Time, then nothing will stop it, if that's His Plan). But if you only believe Science and mondo millions of years, then everything that can happen, already happened.

So why was this episode only, and none of the others, uploaded to Archive.org? It's a no-brainer. It is claimed that stupid people caused climate change, and only smart people can stop it, but not if (as in the movie) they wait until the last minute. Vote for that party (nevermind that the pols there don't believe it either).

And my answer is the same: if you believe only in science and millions of years, then everything that can happen already happened, and the earth survived. Therefore we will also survive the current fraction-of-a-degree warming. The scientific and economic cost to thrive in whatever climate is still with us a hundred years from now is far less than the political and economic cost of futile mitigations today. The politicians know that. And if "millions of years" is not your bag (that is, you believe God both knows and controls what's going on), or if your science is more careful than that of the fear-mongers (both true in my case) then there's nothing to worry about. Except politcians and the pseudo-scientists they support, who would like to exercise control over the rest of us by making life difficult.
 

2021 July 31 -- Not Worth Watching

A wife of noble character who can find? -- King Lemuel
Certainly not in Remington Steele, the 40-year-old TV show where the writers & director (all male) did what male authors often do when forced by the Established National Religion to put a female into a typically male role: they sabotaged her character. Some make her a sociopath, most make her into a guy with female name and pronouns, but these guys made her into a 1Tim.2:14 idiot. You'd think that a business built on a lie, the boss perpetrating that lie would be more attuned to being lied to (most people readily recognize in others faults they know in themselves), but not this floozie. Most women attempting to break into a male-dominated industry try extra hard to be better than the guys -- and this shows up in fiction, too (see "Fighting Back Against the Feminazis" three weeks ago) -- but this detective is simply incompetent.

Stupid is not entertaining, and I have a moral problem with all manner of dishonesty, including in fiction, but I try to forgive a blunder truly repented, however, the second episode was (if anything) worse. I turned it off in the middle and sent the disk back.
 

2021 July 27 -- Moonlight Sonata

The blurb on the download site for this 1937 flick praised its classical music, and it was indeed a delight, especially when the camera zoomed in on Ignacy Jan Paderewski's hands, which was not often, but most of the flick was a less-than-credible story of a young woman spurning her suitor's pleas for the fake romance of a charlatan. We only heard two full pieces, Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody which opened the flick, and Paderewski's own Minuet; plus one and a half times through the first movement of the title piece. I sort of wanted to hear the whole sonata, but I guess if that's going to happen, I need to dig out the record (and the phonograph) from whatever boxes they are in, out in the garage. I have heard the Rhapsody enough times to recognize having heard it, but not enough times to identify it (I looked the movie up in Wiki). It was the title piece that drew me in, so I was somewhat disappointed that they didn't play the whole thing. Moonlight was my first record (I was in high school) and my introduction to classical music. I probably still have it. sigh
 

2021 July 23 -- The American Way

The USA is the richest country in the whole world, and probably in all history. There are moral and ethical reasons we got that way, but more than 40 years ago King SCOTUS replaced all that with a different morality, closer to what China is using as they try to bump us from the top.

Companies operating by the Golden Rule (GR) are a large part of what made us great, but following the King's lead, they too are erasing the ethical system of success: Google explicitly dropped it four years ago, and are now suffering the consequences of that foolish policy.

Now, we need to remember that no company ever hired anybody into a high management position, nor kept them there, whose personal agenda is to change the nature of the company. If you want to do that, you start your own company and let the market prove you right (or wrong). Successful corporations in the USA (and probably everywhere) get to be that way by producing a product that people want to pay for. When they stop doing that, they go out of business. Google execs know that, and act accordingly. Back when the GR drove business ethics, success was an automatic outcome. Chinese ethics ("Don't get caught") tend to backfire more often, but I doubt anybody at Google sees the connection. So they subtly steered their corporate policy from the GR ("Don't be evil") to raw profits. It was not an obvious change that got the decision makers fired for it, but it did result in a huge amount of wrangling reported in the press, and it probably marked a turn in the corporate trajectory, perhaps eventually leading to corporate failure.

Case in point, Timnit Gebru spent her moral formative years in a country and continent where evil governments drive their people to poverty. The only way to rise above that is by very hard work and determination. I don't know how much of the ancient Christian heritage that is unique to her birth country in Africa pervades the culture, but it certainly gave her an edge over the Feminazis and victim mentality in the USA when she got here, at least until she started to adopt the lower ethical standard that now pervades the USA. Because she is now explicitly trying to change Google and/or other companies, and they are (correctly) seeing that what she is proposing will reduce their profits, basically who they are, so she gets fired. That's the way the American (and world) economy works.

It's important to realize that the Chinese ethic ("don't get caught") which is implicitly behind the current profit-centered Google (and other American companies) policy, is ultimately counter-productive. The only best way toward long-term profitability is the GR that Google abandonned four years ago. If Gebru wanted to have an effect at Google (and in the rest of the world), she would quietly drop her present identity politics and work on getting everybody (not just Google) to adopt the GR, because with that in place, Google would be doing what is more profitable (therefore not a "change") and the people who today consider themselves victimized would begin looking for a solution that benefits everybody, so everybody would be motivated to adopt it, which would again turn this country back toward greatness.

But it won't happen. A best-selling history book records an ancient prediction that women will always be trying to dominate men. Domination is not GR and therefore doomed to fail, but Gebru and her identity political colleagues -- women, all of them -- cannot see that. More's the pity, because she started out so well. [Full disclosure: the facts about Ms.Gebru's life and entanglement at Google I got from the WIRED cover story, the interpetation and inference from that, and from eastern Africa history (in the public domain) is mine].
 

2021 July 16 -- Quality

Quality, as I noted several years ago (see "Total Quality" in 2013) is defined by the people in that business as "conformance to specifications." Of course the supplier and the consumer of whatever the quality is being measured for, may have different opinions about what exactly those specifications are, but the maxim "Whoever pays the piper calls the tune" generally applies, and the primary specification from the perspective of the consumer of a video or movie is that they get to watch the movie.

With that in mind, it with some disappointment that I observe the deteriorating quality in Archive.org's offerings. They keep increasing the resolution, so the files get bigger -- now generally double the size of when I began downloading some 15 years ago, and therefore much lower quality (their server times out so I lose the whole download, quality=0, several times this week). I prefer the smaller-screen high-quality flicks. But as usual in such a situation, it's a seller's market. They can do whatever they want, and the consumer can take it or leave it. When I'm too tired to work, or spending the whole day Resting from work, low-quality movies are better than no movies at all. So the current download is the second attempt. Prime time is coming up, when Covid overloaded the network all over the country, so I'll probably lose it again. Real-time viewers will see a lot of the spinning circular arrow. Low Quality.
 

2021 July 12 -- Fighting Back Against the Feminazis

It was a vile flick, pseudo-feminazi, where the lead character was a super-competent sociopath guy with female name and figure and pronouns, but willing to trample all over anybody to achieve "hizzer" ends. It was on Netflix, so I didn't get to see the credits, but after thinking about it for a while, it occurred to me that this had to be another anti-feminist story written by a misogynist guy who subtly gave his lead female despicable character qualities, so when it's all over you won't think to yourself "I want to be that kind of woman." We turned it off before it was over, so I don't know if the writer redeemed his character at the end -- Googled results are ambiguouis, but the critics who seem to think so don't support that notion in their details -- anyway, Google confirmed my hunch that the writer was a guy. When female writers do a story with a female lead, they also try to equalize the genders, but by making their male characters into girls with male names and pronouns (Sleepless in Seattle comes readily to mind). They never make their female lead into a sociopath, that's what males do to fight back against the feminazis, mostly I think because the feminists are too stupid to notice. Sort of like the way novelists devise(d) subtle ways to denigrate the totalitarian goverments in the former Soviet Union and now also in China, where the government hacks were/are likewise too stupiud to notice.
 

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